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Pennies for Poe to preserve history

26 October 2011 By Brandi Bottalico, Staff Writer No Comments

Baltimore residents have initiated fundraisers Pennies for Poe and “A Portrait of Poe” in order to salvage a piece of the city’s literary history.

The house of Edgar Allan Poe, 203 Amity St. in Baltimore, will no longer receive its annual $85,000 government subsidy. As a result of the poor economy, his residence from 1833 to 1835 will not be open to the public without alternative funding.

Pennies for Poe is a campaign that collects monetary donations to aid the preservation of the house. Rafael Alvarez, president of the Edgar Allan Poe Society, started the campaign. Collection bins can be found in G&A Coney Island Hot Dogs on Eastern Avenue and in Annabel Lee, a restaurant in the Highlandtown neighborhood of Baltimore.

“A Portrait of Poe” is a one-man play that illustrates some of Poe’s famous works. A portion of the $10 entry fee and all profits from beverage sales go toward the Pennies for Poe campaign.

Mark S. Sanders, writer, poet and actor, was commissioned by the Hamilton Arts Collective to start “A Portrait of Poe,” which has its last performance Friday.

So far, $700 has been raised through Pennies for Poe. Of the $700, $200 was donated from Crossroads Charter Elementary School in Fells Point, Alvarez said.

“We’re living in an age of Lady Gaga and Lil’ Wayne, and they’re

cheering for a guy who has been dead a hundred years,” Alvarez said.

If the public supports this initiative, voices their concerns, and contributes what they can, they can keep that part of Baltimore history alive, Sanders said.

“The significance of Poe’s house isn’t that it’s a house. It’s that it’s a symbol of a tangible, real human being,” Sanders said.

Even if the house is closed to the public, Poe’s memory will still stay strong, Alvarez said.

“Poe’s memory is untouchable,” Alvarez said. “Poe is immortal.”

Although the public closing of the house would not damage Poe’s memory, it expresses how Baltimore thinks of the writer and poet, Alan Reese, Towson University poetry teacher, said.

“I think it would tarnish the image of our city as a literary town,” Reese said.  “It’s a travesty.”

The use of Poe as a symbol for Baltimore’s football team and to boost the city’s reputation contradicts the city’s treatment of his history, according to Sanders.

If Poe’s house isn’t salvaged, he will remain a major part of Baltimore, Alvarez said.

“My life as a Baltimorean is as influenced by Poe as by the Orioles or by steamed crabs,” Alvarez said. “If you’re a writer in Baltimore, Poe is always with you.”

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